The podium may be decided but the close finishes continued over night and this morning in Race 6: The Henri Lloyd Hobart to Whitsundays Race as the next nine teams arrived steadily into Airlie Beach’s Abell Point Marina.
Da Nang – Viet Nam became the fourth team to cross the line at 0129 local (1529 UTC) just 20 minutes ahead of Derry~Londonderry~Doire which it had managed to overtake in the final five miles of the race.
Wendo Tuck, Skipper of Da Nang – Viet Nam says:”I’m really happy for the team and am obviously really glad that we got fourth but I do feel a little sorry for Derry~Londonderry~Doire Skipper Dan because we are all mates, but at the end of the day it is a race. I’ve probably done about eight or nine Airlie Beach Race Weeks and then about the same number of Hamilton Island Race Weeks so that local knowledge has been hugely helpful and is probably how we managed to sneak past Derry~Londonderry~Doire in the end – that and a little bit of luck.
“Winning the Clipper Race division of the Sydney-Hobart in Race 5 was a real confidence boost for the team and then to lead the fleet out of the River Derwent was massive, the equivalent of leading out of Sydney because my main man Davey G (round the world crew member David Graney) is from Hobart so we had him on the helm as we led the fleet down the river. The fact that the crew now know what they are capable of is huge.
“It will be sad for me to leave my home country when we set off for Race 7 but we will be racing to our home port Da Nang in Viet Nam and we know the welcome there is going to better than anything we have experienced so far. That is going to spur us on and hopefully result in another b performance.”
Derry~Londonderry~Doire crossed the line fifth at 0150 local (1550 UTC). The team chose an offshore route for the majority of the race, which seemed to work to their advantage as they led the fleet before having to make their way inshore and through the Whitsunday Islands.
Having narrowly missed out on fourth place, Skipper Daniel Smith says: “We have had a little bit of everything in this race. At the beginning we struggled to get the boat moving because it was quite tight on the wind. Second half of the race was downwind and we picked up speed. We ended up much further offshore than the other boats which originally looked like it was going to pay off but towards the end we didn’t quite slot in where we wanted to. Then it was very tight racing in the end with very little wind so it was exciting sailing.
“The team is quite disappointed that we missed out on a place in the final stages. We had a nice, consistent wind and we were gaining miles all day, but then towards the end the wind died away to nothing, we stopped and Da Nang – Viet Nam passed us which was a bit annoying. At least we have an extra point from being third through the Scoring Gate, which means we finish with the same points as Wendo and her team, so it doesn’t hurt so badly.”
IchorCoal was sixth across the finish line at 0224 local time (1624 UTC), shortly followed by Unicef . IchorCoal Skipper Darren Ladd sums up the race: “It was incredibly close the whole way through, but in particular after the first couple of days when so many teams chose the inshore route and we had about six or seven of them appear on our AIS (automatic identification system). It was really enjoyable to be racing so closely.
“We had been chasing Da Nang – Viet Nam for ages and then we caught up with Unicef as well. Da Nang – Viet Nam got away from us, but we piped Unicef at the post. That’s happened to us a few times so it was great to sneak in there at the end. We are really happy to be sixth across the line, it’s out best finish so far. The last race wasn’t so good for us and although we have to wait and see how Mission Performance does when it gets redress, we are really happy with our placing.
“We always feel that we can do better than our results show. It’s about consistency really. We usually start alright, finish alright but make one or two tiny mistakes in the middle somewhere which gives us too much to catch up on but we are determined to do better. There is the team we think we can be but we haven’t got there yet, however we are coming good.”
Unicef crossed the line at 0248 local (1648 UTC) with Skipper Martin Clough, in early enough to celebrate his birthday on land tomorrow, saying: “The last section was a little bit frustrating as we had worked all day and managed to get a place out of IchorCoal. And then just on the slack part coming in there when we ran out of wind there were four of us parked up and we sadly got away last. But it has been a great race. We’ve been sparring with IchorCoal and Da Nang – Viet Nam almost all the way really.
“The last few days have been awesome sailing really, very exciting fast sailing. Flat water and nice scenery and lots of spinnaker sailing which has been great fun. We have the bonus of having a few extra days off now and it is great to be able to spend it in such a beautiful place.”
ClipperTelemed+ finished just over one hour after Unicef at 0350 local time (1750 UTC). Skipper Matt Mitchell says:“We decided to head on the offshore route early on in the race. The cherry on the cake would have been the Scoring Gate but we ditched that idea to get further north. We had an absolutely storming run up, we couldn’t have asked for better but just that last little bit we were a couple of miles just too far off shore which gave three or four knots difference in current and we watched the whole fleet sail up inside of us which was tough.
“We were the only boat that made the decision to come outside of the Whitsunday Islands in the final part of the course and we gained about 15 to 20 miles on the fleet. It was a nice final tactical decision. Just if only we had been all side by side at that point we could have made some real position gains!”
Qingdao, PSP Logistics and Visit Seattle were next to arrive this morning. Qingdao crossed the line at 0742 local time 10 January 2016 (2142 UTC 9 January); PSP Logistics followed at 0926 (2326 UTC) chased 9 minutes later by Visit Seattle, which crossed the line at 0935 (2335 UTC).
Ninth to arrive, Qingdao Skipper Bob Beggs explained: “It was a good fast race, always in view of other boats. The team have worked very hard but we ran into a windhole in shore when we tried to reduce the effect of the east Australian current. We lost a lot of ground and never really recovered from that. But we’re here now. Everyone is lookng dorward to this longer than usual stopover in the Whitsundays.”
PSP Logistics Skipper Max Stunell was in good spirits as he arrived after holding off a final tactical attack from Visit Seattle who opted to go inside the Islands in a bid to overtake. He says: “This morning we had an eight mile lead on Visit Seattle. They have basically been within three miles of us for the past three days, constantly haunting us so welldone to them! A very nerve wracking time for us.
“I had seen Qingdao go inside the islands today and as the tide was against us for that route we chose to go the slightly longer route around the outside. Of course Huw on Vist Seattle had nothing to lose so decided to take the inside route and try to cut us off and it very almost worked! A very entertaining race and it feels fantastic to be here in Airlie Beach ahead of schedule.”
Eleventh yacht Visit Seattle Skipper Huw Fernie said: “We had been chasing PSP Logistics for almost three days so it went right to the end. Like the Race Viewers back home, we have also been glued to our computer screens on board and also watching them through our binoculars to see what sort of sail plans they have up. I’m sure they were doing the same to us too.
“It’s been a really fantastic to have boats in sight for so much of the race. It really changes the experience for the crew and it’s great fun. The racing has been very close and it doesn’t really matter where we come – at the end of the day we have all achieved the same, incredible result and we’re very proud of ourselves.”
The Airlie Beach stopover marks the first time the Clipper Race fleet has ever visited the Whitsundays region in Queensland, world renowned for its tropical coastline and 74 islands right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
Abell Point Marina is the one of the largest marinas in Australia and making a name for itself as the benchmark marina in Whitsundays and along the east coast of Australia. With an impressive fireworks display planned at the official crew prize giving on Friday 15 January and a free community day of open boat tours, talks, local foods and souvenir stalls planned for Saturday 16 January, the sailing fraternity here will have plenty of chance to join in the festivities and spirit.